A Steward’s Journey

The Real Joy of Gift-Giving

by on Oct.18, 2009, under A Steward’s Journey

A little book that made a big impression on me was written in 1968 by Swiss psychiatrist Paul Tournier. In The Meaning of Gifts, Dr. Tournier made several observations, but one still stands out in my mind today. It’s this: The real joy in gift-giving isn’t found when the gift is given. It’s found when the gift is given back. I’m not talking about giving the actual gift back; the real joy of gift-giving is found in something much more significant than that. Here’s what I mean.

Last month our son Brent and his family went with Pam and me to the mountains for a getaway weekend. While we were walking through the resort shops his daughter, Meghan, saw a pair of boots that were made for her. With a birthday just a few weeks away Pam and I got them as our birthday gift for her. We were glad to do it, but when we learned what came next we experienced the real joy of gift-giving.

When it was time for Meghan to go back to school, she wore her boots. And the next day, and the next. Meghan and her boots became inseparable. She absolutely loved her gift, and in that enthusiastic acceptance of what we’d given to her she gave an even more valuable gift back to us – joy. Because the real joy of gift-giving is when our gift finds its mark. The real joy is seeing the gift enthusiastically accepted and used. You see, Meghan’s boots were not just given to be worn, they were given to be worn out.

Look at it from the opposite perspective. Where would our joy be if Meghan had taken her new boots home and put them in the closet? Never to be worn again? Where’s the joy in the un-used gift? There isn’t any. It’s replaced by disappointment. They didn’t like our gift,we think. What a disappointment. What a waste.

We know this instinctively even if we haven’t stopped to think about it. When we make something or buy a gift for someone we do it with the hope and expectation that it will be more than accepted, we desire that it be embraced. Not all gifts hit the mark, though; some fall flat. What was given in the expectation of joy is received in a disappointment that can’t be hidden by a gracious smile and thank you.

God is a gift-giver. Matthew says it this way: If you then … know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (7:11). God delights in giving gifts to us. He made us, He gifted us, and He delights when those gifts are given back to him by being embraced, used, and worn out. Maybe there’s something that he’s given to you that’s still in the box tucked away in the corner of your closet. Maybe it’s time to get it out, dust it off, embrace it, and give Him joy. It’s worth considering.

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Generous Grouch?

by on Mar.19, 2009, under A Steward’s Journey

When was the last time you met a Generous Grouch? I’ll bet you never have, I’ll bet your experience is the same as mine: generous people are the least grouchy people on earth. They are, in fact, and most happy and contented people you’ll ever meet.

People who are into themselves, who are into money and the things money can buy … they’re just not very much fun to be around. But people who are into others, who generously share their money and possessions … they’re like stepping into the sunlight on a too cool day … their presence enough to surround us in warmth. 

Chapter 10 of A Steward’s Journey is about the grouch and generosity. The Bible has a lot to say about both, and the wise will follow its counsel.

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by on Mar.02, 2009, under A Steward’s Journey

Here’s an uncomfortable truth: even the tastiest filet mignon loses its flavor if you’re not at peace with the person across the table. Yet sometimes we’re hungrier for the meal than we are for the sharing of the moment. Too often both the meal and the moment are not satisfying. Proverbs puts it like this: “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” See if you have ever identified with this.

Take time to develop good relationships with those close to you. Value them. Because misplaced priorities can leave a bad taste in the mouth … in more ways than one.

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Needs vs. Wants

by on Mar.01, 2009, under A Steward’s Journey, Faith in the Public Square

The banner in the bank window said it all: Needs vs. Wants – with our low rates you don’t have to choose. Nonsense. The ability to separate needs and wants is a fundamental part of establishing priorities in life. And failure to do so ultimately leads to the kinds of economic disasters evidenced by the “Foreclosure” signs scattered in our neighborhoods.

Accepting the bank’s false message led too many to believe they could have it all. Now we’re seeing the same unwillingness to prioritize and live within our means played out on the national stage. Any legitimate “stimulus” needs in the recently passed legislation were completely overwhelmed by the wants of those who saw economic crisis as a vehicle of political opportunism.

Proverbs 21:5 says it this way: “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Spending nearly a trillion dollars of borrowed (non-existent) money without taking the time to establish meaningful priorities is a study in haste, not diligence. It will surely lead to poverty. We deserve better from our leaders.

Yet don’t each of us need to ask whether we’re acting diligently in our personal financial decisions? Are we acting as stewards or acting out our wants? It’s a question we need to answer so there will be profit – not poverty – in our future. (for more on this subject, check out A Steward’s Journey.)

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